Govt moves to regulate NZ's space industry

Govt moves to regulate NZ's space industry

"3...2...1...Blast off" -- you'll soon be hearing that from the Mahia Peninsula on the North Island's east coast. 

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has announced the Government is implementing regulations to ensure safe space launches from New Zealand. 

New Zealand company Rocket Lab has already negotiated a launch space at Mahia and Mr Joyce says the regulations are the next step in ensuring the development of a responsible space plan. 

"We are gearing New Zealand up to become part of the space economy. Not by all means taking over the world, we are just doing our bit."

There are four prongs to the plan:

Rocket Lab wants to provide low-cost launch services to the international small satellite industry.

When the plan is implemented, Mr Joyce says Rocket Lab could be launching from the peninsula as frequently as once a month.   

"There's also not just Rocket Lab, there's a couple of other potential organisations, two regional research institutes that are both focused on space technology."

But if you think this means New Zealand will have its very own man on the moon shortly, you might be getting a bit ahead of yourself. 

"I think that's highly unlikely," Mr Joyce said. "But then I suppose, you know, a year or two ago if you'd asked me 'would we be actually setting up a regime for rockets to go into space?' I would've probably said no."

He was certain that he won't be heading to space aboard these rockets though. 

"Even though I am slim, I won't be fitting inside these rockets." 

As part of the agreement with the United States, New Zealand has also granted access to launch sites for security purposes. 

"We have signed up to allowing them to keep secure watch over any technology, again because of the risk of somebody coming in and saying, 'well, actually I want to access that technology for other purposes," he said. 

Other purposes mentioned by the minister include missile launches. 

Also as part of the agreement New Zealand has had to give an assurance that we are not developing or acquiring any "Missile Technology Control Regime Category 1" rocket systems and we won't do that in the future without consulting the US government. 

But it also points out that New Zealand reserves the right to deny access to our launch areas from any country -- including the US.